Monday, November 15, 2010

Of Dogs and Men

I have a weird relationship with Veteran's Day. It's not that I'm not appreciative. Believe me, I am. Say what you want about our current situation in the Middle East, we all need to tip our hats to the men and women who choose to walk into the thick of it every day. Both of my grandfathers served in WWII. I have a cousin serving in the Army right now (hoo-ah Austin! Or um, whatever you guys say to each other). But both of those are somewhat removed from me: WWII was over sixty years ago and Austin is off doing his own thing in another state.

My Veteran's Day weirdness comes from my dad, Leonard (Lon) Langer. He was a Green Beret in Vietnam. He came home with a Purple Heart, partial blindness and a limp due to exploding shrapnel. I don't know much beyond that because he never talked about it. Although I'm finally at an age where I'd like to ask, I can't, because he died of Lou Gehrig's Disease - an evil, vicious illness - in 2001. We weren't close. It's not that he was a bad person, but when you put two solitary, stubborn people in a room together, there's not a whole lot of communication going on.

So there is a bit of a disconnect in my brain when it comes to Veteran's Day. Sure, I'm proud. But it's not the kind of deep, heartfelt pride and gratitude I feel like I should have as the daughter of a veteran. I could never really relate to Lon, and so I can't relate to Veteran's Day on a personal level, either.

Then I found this:

Whoa. If I remember right, it was literally the week after my dad's funeral that the Divine Miss Q made her first appearance. And boy, was I ever in need of something to love right then. I would never equate what I went through with the suffering of those young vets. There's no comparison. But the healing power of animals is something I get. Listening to their stories, I could empathize a little. And in empathizing with them, I understood Lon Langer a little better today: a guy who must have dealt with the same crippling side effects as those young vets. A guy who wasn't perfect, but tried hard to do right by his kids. A guy who passed the writing gene (or mutation) on to me.

So here's to all our military people on this Veteran's Day: active and retired, serving abroad or at home. But most of all, here's to you, Dad.


Janiel Miller said...

Beautiful, Maegan. Thanks for helping us think and feel on Veteran's day. My dad never talks about his experiences in 'Nam or flying with SAC during the Cuban Missile Crisis either. But I'm grateful.

Sara B. Larson said...

My grandfather was a spy in WWII and never told us about it either, and I wish he had. He died years ago, and now none of us will ever know what he really did. War is just atrocious, and I think the men and women who fight in them have to spend the rest of their lives trying to forget what happened just to keep LIVING. What a great tribute and thank you for making me think about this. I'm so sorry about your dad.

Janiel Miller said...

Yes, and thanks for being willing to put all of that about you and your dad out there. You are good.

Russo said...

I agree with Janiel, I am so glad you were willing to put this out there because man I got teary. Lovely post, girl

Maegan Langer said...

Thanks girls :)

indiana weaver said...

I want to comment, but I fear that what I say will come off as somehow condescending or patronizing and that's not at all how I feel. I really appreciate the insight and bravery that it takes to write a post like this. The parent thing is hard.

Maegan Langer said...

Not condescending or patronizing at all, Indiana. Thank you!

Bob said...

Maegan - I don't know you that well. I know you only through Jenna. However, I've wondered about your father. You know...it seems like he's never mentioned, your mother with a different last name...just stuff that one doesn't bring up with someone they don't know really well.

So, thanks for answering some unasked questions and for paying tribute to our veterans.

I was drafted into the Army from 1967 - 1969. While most of my friends went to Vietnam, I was sent to Heidelberg, Germany. My responsibility was to ensure that no Viet Cong infiltrated our Top Secret office in the US Army Headquarters in Heidelberg. I'm proud to say, whether out of fear of me or something else, not one Viet Cong was even seen in Heidelberg the whole time I was there. I think I served my country well.

Anyway, thanks for the blog.